Hugh Jackman received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.
Also the editing of the film certainly is questionable at times for example it definitely should have shown Marius witness the aftermath of the revolution outside before "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables". Some of the singing could be question like Russell Crowe as Javert. I got use to his voice quickly though, as I am not a singing snob, and honestly I really liked his performance of the character's two major solos. With its flaws that certainly are there at most I could only think it is descent right? Wrong. I loved it and I have to say it. There are not many musicals I like but this one just hits me the right way. I loved the musical and I loved the film. The final emotional impact the film had on me the moment I finished overrode any of its issues for me, and none of the power of the musical was lost for me.
Well getting that out of the way, I suppose I should address how the leading man of the film is. An interesting fact is the last actor to win the best leading actor Oscar for a traditional musical, Rex Harrison for my Fair Lady, sang his songs live which is the same for Hugh Jackman in this film. This is a decision by Tom Hooper that was a intelligent one and for a musical as emotional as Les Miserables it allows the actors to properly punctuate the emotions of each song through their performances. Hugh Jackman has a many different songs through the film where Valjean is at vastly different emotional and physical states in the film, and this different style of singing gives Jackman the ability to voice Valjean differently which properly suggest the various states of Valjean.
Hugh Jackman singing voice is not nearly as full as the two other Valjean's in the concert versions of the musicals who are Alfie Boe, and Colm Wilkinson who is also in this film as the Bishop of Digne. Jackman's voice thought still fits his character, and perhaps even more so early on in the film when Valjean is first released from prison as an embittered man filled with disgust over his treatment by the world. Jackman is effective early on by intensely portraying this with Valjean in these moments, and properly shows Valjean as a man very much at the end of his rope. There is a lacking of humanity here no warmth, but instead Jackman properly reflects the pain of his character here, something the other two Valjeans did not do as much.
This performance really is one of fairly broad emotions by Jackman which makes since after all his character early on the film sings out loud about what his character is feeling. When Valjean is saved from prison once more by the Bishop of Digne's kindness and Jackman delivers the "soliloquy". One can't really be Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy when singing a song to the screen well battling a orchestra to be noticed. Jackman manages with this song, as well as most of the other songs in the film, as he gets across the broad gestures that are the emotions of the song a through as they should be, but it does not feel like he is going over the top. Jackman manages still to be as realistic as one could be when singing in such a way, and conveys the conflict both through the power of the song and his face.
After Valjean period of being an embittered man and finds success staying a purely good character throughout the rest of the film only being troubled by his past and a policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) who will not stop hounding him. Jackman is very much on the nose here in terms of his emotions and his way of playing the character. He really plays him straight as there are not a lot of surprises to be seen but nor are there surprises in the character of Valjean after the opening scenes. In many ways he is very much almost a straight man within the story always firmly there to be this positive moral center in the story. Jackman does this well though by being so very enthusiastic in the part. He properly does not have any play within Valjean, Valjean is a good man and he is right in just reinforcing this conviction with his performance.
Hugh Jackman through every scene he is does exactly what he needs to with the part, and every time succeeds in being exactly as Valjean should be. Whether it is his look of fear and surprise for seeing Javert again, to later being deeply saddened to fine the lowly state his former worker Fantine (Anne Hathaway) has fallen into, his resilience to do the right thing despite having some hesitations due to his fate when he sings "Who am I", to even being slightly comic in the scene where Valjean is not fooled a moment by the con man innkeeper Thernadier, Jackman always consistently gives the passion to the part. Every moment of the film he portrays the emotions directly and to the point that goes in line with Valjean perfectly. Through of the varying tones, and styles of the scenes Jackman weaves through all of them well never faulting in the wrong direction instead bringing the proper weight to each and every scene.
I would say the only lull in his performance is when the story jumps ahead again to Valjean taking care of the daughter of Fantine, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), and fleeing with her to Paris to avoid Javert. Now really is not Jackman's fault as the story shifts mostly to the revolutionaries and the romance between Cosette and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) a young revolutionary. Valjean is mostly pushed into the background but to be fair Jackman is still good in that he portrays the appropriate warmth in his scenes with Seyfried but as well the fear and hesitations within Valjean over his troublesome past. The only time I really has any problem with his performance was in the song "One Day More". Valjean's voice is the back bone of the song and in the song Jackman's voice simply does not support the rest of the voices as Valjean's is suppose to do. This is though is a minor point, and made up by the later scenes of his performance.
What I think really does work in his performance here is his ability to succeed in "Who am I". The number actually is quite problematic in that Valjean basically instantly cares about Marius's and desperately wants him to live. The suddenness of it is a problem surely, but Jackman completely unabashed manner is what makes it work. Yes it is sudden but Jackman sings his heart and is emotionally convincing in the moment despite how instant it all is. Jackman is even more effective though in the final scenes as Valjean falls into grief due his own self imposed exile from his adopted daughter to protect her from his past, and eventually dies. I absolutely love Jackman's last scene as he honestly is convincing in his dying by grief, and he beautifully portrays the happiness that appears back again in his face as he sees his adopted daughter one more time. Valjean's death at the end of the scene is meant to be sad, poignant, and inspiring all in the same breath and Jackman does it once again through his uncompromising devotion to the part.
To be perfectly honest Hugh Jackman is not one of my very favorite actors. I don't dislike him as he has certain charm and screen presence. This performance though absolutely works for me though, and is easily his best. The only time I have any issue with his performance with One Day More, but that honestly is almost a nitpick. Jackman handles the singing well and always with the song conveys the emotions right along with it. Now really if you don't go along with the film you definitely will not being going along with his performance. As someone who did go along right with the film Jackman served as a perfect anchor for the film. Hugh Jackman stands firm delivery a consistent powerful performance that goes straight ahead forward with the film, and if you are ready to go along with him he takes you right with him through every emotional step of the film.